Laundry in Hard Water: Effective Solutions for Mineral Deposits, Soap Scum, and Detergent Issues

Practical tips to address the challenges of washing clothes in hard water - such as mineral deposits, soap scum, and reduced effectiveness of detergents
Updated on:

When you are washing clothes you expect your detergent to work its magic – to lather up and clean them properly. But what if it remains a dud in the water, instead of creating suds and after washing your clothes look stiff and feel not-so-clean. You can attribute these problems to the water coming from your tap. It is obviously hard water.

What is hard water?

Hard water is water containing several minerals (Calcium, magnesium and others).

Water hardness is expressed as grains (total dissolved minerals) per gallon or parts per million. Soft water will have 0 to 3.5 grains per gallon or 0 to 60 parts per million. Moderately hard water will have 3.6 to 7 grains per gallon, or 61 to 120 parts per million. Real hard water will have  7.1 to 10.5 grains per gallon, or 121 to 180 parts per million. Very hard water will have more than 10.6 grains per gallon, or more than 180 parts per million.

Hardness of water may be a result of the source of water; groundwater is usually harder than surface water. Some areas of the same place will have more hardness than other parts. Distilled water is pure and has no dissolved minerals. 

When hardness is suspected you can check the exact levels with the help of a handy pen. When soap or detergent is used with this water, a powder is formed. You can see these powder leaving marks on glass vessels, and a powdery residue inside washing machines.

There is an easy way to know if you have hard water coming from your pipes- look for white-colored stains on bathroom faucets with hot water. This is because hard water when heated separates into insolubles ; You can see them when you boil hard water till it completely dissipates – there will be a white powder remaining. 

hard water deposits on faucets
White marks due to hard water

A gradual way to know water hardness is when your new white top becomes no-longer-white anymore and never looks clean enough. It may turn yellow or greyish. And it also destroys the fibers, and generally reduces the life span. As I said, this is a gradual deterioration. Not immediately noticeable, unless the water hardness is very very high. 

Hard water reduces the cleaning power of soaps and detergents – But this is more for soaps. If you dissolve soap in hard water, you get a soap curd (water-insoluble scum) – this is due to the excess minerals present. You can clean your clothes with soap only after the scum is removed which is not practical

One major problem if you have very very hard water (this is rare) is to the plumbing system in your home – Lime scale can build up inside the pipes and gradually destroy the insides of your plumbing fixtures.

How to deal with hard water problems in laundry?

OPTIONS for hard water laundry

Choose detergents specifically designed for hard water. Liquid detergents dissolve better in hard water than powdered detergents.

Use more detergent than is recommended

Add water softener tablets that neutralize mineral ions

Use a fabric softener sheet or wool dryer balls in the dryer

Use baking soda or vinegar in the wash to break down mineral deposits and soap scum

Use Citric acid packets to wash lightcolored clothes

Buy electronic water softener machine.

Usually, detergents work alright with hard water. You may just have to increase the amount. ie use more detergent than you usually do if you suspect you have hard water. And also take some extra precautions.

There are special laundry detergents with additives that are very effective in dealing with water hardness. These come under the anionic category and will contain sodium lauryl sulfate compound. 

Water softeners or Detergent boosters can be added to the wash to soften the water. It can be added to the washing cycle or rinsing cycle. The usual home water softeners use sodium chloride (table salt)

For more thorough cleaning, you can use the effective water softener systems.

Home-made solutions include adding vinegar (or lemon juice) to the wash. Hard water stains on fabric can be treated with diluted vinegar solution.

For a permanent solution, you will have to find the root of the problem. You will be able to check about the water quality at the company that provides water or the public utility consumer service department.

How to deal with soap scum in the laundry as a result of hard water?

After a wash in hard water, you may find your clothes coated with soap scum. You can tackle this problem with white vinegar. Vinegar is an acidic substance with a pH level that can break down and dissolve alkaline soap scum. It will soften and loosen soap scum from fabric fibers.
Fill a basin or bathtub with warm water. Add 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water.
Put the clothes you find is coated with soap scum in the solution and let it soak for about 30 minutes to an hour.
Gently agitate the fabric a few times during the soak.
After soaking, wash the clothing as usual with detergent.

Read more on hard water here.

Related posts: Different types of cleaning products; Using fabric softener in the wash; How to remove lint; How to counter pilling; Different methods of cleaning clothes

Did you like this post?

Click on the stars to rate it!

Average rating 5 / 5. 1

Subscribe to get weekly notifications of posts in your email

Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.
Your opinion is important here. Leave a comment